Deciding when, where, and whether to enroll in higher education can be tough. It costs a lot of money, takes up years of time, and can mean the difference between financial mobility and a life without gainful employment opportunities. With that being said, it’s also largely dependent on one of the most difficult questions to answer: What exactly is it that you want to do with your life?
In India, where there are over 35,000 colleges and more than 30 million enrolled students, many students choose paths that leave them without jobs after graduation. 1.5 million engineers are pumped out of its education system each year and 33 percent run the risk of never finding employment.
According to Ruchir Arora, founder of CollegeDekho, this means that the educational advertising market in India is worth somewhere around INR25 billion (~US$374 million). “It’s practically impossible for colleges to set up their own CRM (customer relationship management, or collected data that businesses use to analyze their interactions with current and potential customers) tools,” he explains. “If students are equipped with enough information, they can make more intelligent decisions on education.”
CollegeDekho connects colleges and their course listings with interested students. It includes features like a step-by-step search tool that uses basic interests to figure out appropriate colleges and chat forums for prospective and enrolled students in the same college. It also provides information on a variety of entrance exams and rankings.
The startup announced its first round of investment of US$1 million from IT company Girnar Software today. Incidentally, Girnar is the parent company of a few of India’s other dekho (“look” in Hindi) platforms, including online automobile portal CarDekho and price comparison site PriceDekho. It has raised a total of US$65 million from investors like Sequoia Capital and Hillhouse Capital.
Until this funding, Ruchir explains that the startup has been bootstrapped. “We have 25 people on our team and our leads – 5,000 downloads – have all been organic until now. That goes to show that there’s a huge market here.”
“Most sites want you to already know what you’re trying to do,” explains Ruchir. “We focus on things like aptitude, abilities, constraints […] We really want to understand who you are.” With the funding in hand, Ruchir also plans to launch several new features. “Our full-steam app will be launched in December. We’re working on creating a profiling engine with almost 300 checkpoints that will be automatically collected as soon as a student interacts with an app,” he says. “Things as basic as being born in Delhi will mean that we can share the top ten colleges that we think are good for you.”
Because of the nature of the industry, CollegeDekho’s target group is more specific than that of most startups. “We have an exact group – it’s 18 to 23,” he explains. “We see most of our action from those looking for professional courses like engineering, law, hotel management, or maybe something in a private sector.”
While the market potential is huge, CollegeDekho has some competitors. Shiksha is a portal that provides similar information to its students and includes features like a common application for business school applicants in India and a tool that allows for comparison of post-graduate alumni salaries from different schools. Ruchir remains confident, however. “I know what people want in this sector and I’m ready to iterate and listen until CollegeDekho gets there,” he says. “It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed.”
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